Criticism from 106 Conservative MPs about the effectiveness of wind power are incorrect and are seriously damaging the technology's potential to cut carbon emissions and boost the green economy.
That is the stark finding of a new report by the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) and consultancy Garrad Hassan, which aims to "debunk the myths" about the effectiveness and reliability of wind power.
The Prime Minister is under pressure from backbench MPs to cut subsidies for onshore wind power, on the grounds that consumers should not be forced to pay for a technology that is "intermittent and inefficient".
As a result, it concludes that CO2 savings from wind power amounted to a minimum carbon saving of 5.5 million tonnes in 2011 with the actual figure likely to have been much higher.
However, the report published today, dubbed Beyond the Bluster
, concludes that wind power is "unequivocally" an effective means of reducing carbon dioxide emissions, with each megawatt hour (MWh) from wind turbines saving at least 350 kilograms of CO2.
It also concludes that wind power can become a reliable and secure energy source for the UK, if the grid is adapted to better integrate variable energy sources.
Highlighting evidence from countries such as Spain, Portugal, and Ireland, which already generate similar proportions of electricity from wind to those proposed in the UK for 2020 in a reliable way, the report argues the grid is well positioned to support an increased proportion of wind energy.
IPPR said it commissioned the report on a pro bono basis, with no sponsorship.
"Too often, criticisms of wind power technology have been made that are not based on robust evidence," said Will Straw, IPPR associate director.
"The interests of UK consumers and the British economy are best served if debates on wind power stick to the facts. The potential for wind power to save carbon emissions and the reliability of the technology, at least in the period up until 2020, are essentially settled issues."
The report was welcomed by renewable energy trade associations the Renewable Energy Association (REA) and RenewableUK
, which believes wind power could create 76,000 jobs by 2021 and deliver nearly £700,000 value for each megawatt of onshore wind capacity installed.
RenewableUK chief executive, Maria McCaffery
, urged the government to apply an evidence-based approach during its next review of onshore wind energy subsidies, which is controversially scheduled for this autumn, just months after the conclusion of the most recent review of renewable energy subsidies.
"The government needs to press ahead with its plans for electricity market reform and give clarity and stability to investors," she said.
"Ministers should not get distracted by noise created by a small anti-wind minority. Two-thirds of the British public are in favour of more wind energy. International evidence shows it's wholly viable, and yet we're still not taking full advantage of it in terms of deployment. In the meantime, British families are still being hit hard by rising wholesale fossil fuel prices. It's time for a concerted effort to boost our wind deployment."
Gaynor Hartnell, chief executive of the REA
, said the report should mark a turning point in the public debate about wind energy.
"We need to move on to a better level of public discussion about wind energy in the UK," she said. "Politicians and policy must stick to a rational approach; opponents should be honest in their motivations and not dress them up in spurious arguments; and wind energy proponents must accept that some people think wind turbines are a blot on the landscape, and they are perfectly entitled to hold that opinion."